"What have been the consequences of the crisis for African ports?"
Disrupted yet functional ports
Africa, the last continent affected by Covid-19, was able to react very quickly by bringing in physical protection measures. Overall, maritime traffic remained stable during the crisis, with an actual increase in food flows. The ports, whose objective was to ensure operational continuity of services, remained functional.
Within this context, however, African ports still suffered some disruption. Health measures, such as crew control, limited time to carry out customs formalities, curfews in some countries and social distancing measures at terminals have not helped the smooth flow of goods at ports.
However, these operational difficulties have been different from country to country and are not all attributable to the health crisis. The crisis has sometimes highlighted chronic pre-existing issues in some African ports, such as the terminals in the port of Abidjan, which regularly suffer from congestion during the annual cocoa export campaign.
An unexpected positive note: the development of digitalisation
The implementation of cumulative barrier measures to traffic that has remained stable has led to significant delays in the provision of containers.
One of the solutions to address the issues was digitalisation. Port actors, forced to change their habits to speed up procedures, have turned to digitalisation, especially for the clearance of goods.
It is to be hoped that this commitment to digitalisation, which is now in high demand by operators, will continue post-Covid. This would stimulate port logistics through improved fluidity of goods, effectively reducing post-arrival times at African ports.